Authors: Melissa Bourbon Ramirez
Tags: #Mystery, #melissa bourbon, #basketball, #cozy, #Romantic Suspense, #Sacramento, #cheerleaders, #Romance, #Misa Ramirez, #California, #nudists, #Melissa Bourbon Ramirez, #Contemporary Romance, #lola cruz
Table of Contents
Praise for Bare-Naked Lola...
“¡Ay Caramba! Lola’s back, and hotter than ever, whether strutting her stuff as a courtside dancer or crashing a party at a nudist resort. Between the well-crafted mystery and the sizzling romance,
is a great read... and muy caliente!”
- Jennie Bentley, NY Times bestselling author
“Smart, sassy, and a bundle of fun! Lola is the spicy, Latina answer to Stephanie Plum – full of laughs, heart, and the kind of endearing women you can’t help rooting for. Fans of the humorous mystery genre will be cheering in their seats over Misa Ramirez’s latest Lola Cruz mystery.”
- Gemma Halliday, NY Times bestselling author
reveals just how saucy, funny, sizzling and brave P.I. Lola Cruz can be. She is one hot mamacita, and this book is not to be missed! Loved every page!”
- Bestselling author Heather Webber
“Melissa Bourbon Ramirez has scored with her latest edition in the Lola Cruz Mysteries series. She had me cheering for Lola as the sassy PI goes undercover as a dancer for a professional basketball team to investigate a mystery that kept me guessing (and giggling) all the way to the bare-naked end.”
- Dorothy St. James, author of the White House Gardener Mysteries
“Lola Cruz is smarter and sexier than ever.
Melissa Bourbon Ramirez and her spicy PI detective will leave you hanging on every page!”
- Tonya Kappes, bestselling Indie author
a lola cruz mystery
Melissa Bourbon Ramirez
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Melissa Bourbon Ramirez. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.
Edited by Libby Murphy
Cover design by Heather Howland
Ebook ISBN 978-1-62061-005-3
Print ISBN 978-1-62061-004-6
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition May 2012
The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: JLO, iPod, Juanes, Ricky Martin, Menudo, Richter scale, Tomb Raider, Fatal Attraction, Volvo, True Romance, Sleepers, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Xena: Warrior Princess, James Bond, Harry Potter, Mensa, Hostess Twinkie, The Sacramento Bee, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats, PowerBar, Governator, “The Star Spangled Banner,” the Black Eyed Peas, Dumpster, Spicy Hot V8, Honda CR-V, Los Angeles Lakers, Bel Air, Nancy Drew, Chesire Cat, Howe ‘Bout Arden, Ethan Allen, NudeStock, Woodstock, Victoria’s Secret, Gossip Girl, Disneyland, Mickey Mouse, Laker Girls, Charlie’s Angels, Los Angeles Lakers, Google, Bluetooth, Crayola, Facebook, Dockers, Welcome Wagon, Saran Wrap, Jagged Edge, m.a.c., Advil, Ruger 380, Polo, Miss America, White Pages, Poison Ivy, Batman, Hot For Teacher, Advil, Arden Fair Mall, “You’re Fired,” from The Celebrity Apprentice, Volkswagen Beetle, Birkenstock, Barbie, NBA.
For the Lit Girls,
Abundantly flowing locks, perfectly tanned bodies, and perky breasts with enticingly rounded cleavage—these were not the things I’d expected to see walking into the Camacho & Associates private investigation office on a Wednesday morning.
Pero, Dios mío
, that’s exactly what I
see. Two women lounging at the conference table, each exhibiting their own take on “aloof,” stopped me dead with their blinding beauty. I was afraid I’d be scarred for life.
I could hate them on the spot, except, super-detective that I am, I knew they had to be clients. And clients meant that I remained employed as a detective. Hating them for their otherworldly beauty? Not allowed.
Manny Camacho, owner of the small investigative firm in Sacramento, ex-cop, and super-P.I., stood in the doorway of his office quietly talking with yet another attractive woman. It might as well have been the Miss America pageant—there was no escaping them. This one was older than the others by a good fifteen years or so, but she had the body of a twenty-year-old. She had a long neck, nary a wrinkle in sight, and a tall, gazellelike body. Her hair shone like black velvet and was pulled back into a severe bun. Her angular face and chiseled cheekbones intensified her exotic appearance.
. Had to be.
Reilly Fuller, part-time clerk for the agency, scowled from her desk.
” I asked, stopping to get the 4-1-1.
Her Spanish was limited—and often amounted to adding a strategic
to the end of a word—but she understood me and liked to use what she knew.
,” she said, sounding very disgruntled that she didn’t know anything.
Reilly made a strangled noise that left me wondering if all the colorful dye she used on her hair had finally done some deeper damage, perhaps affecting her vocal cords. Reilly
for gossip, though at the moment she was oddly silent.
I heard the
of the surveillance camera bracketed to the wall in the top corner of the room. Ah, so that was the source of Reilly’s grief. Neil, a caveman detective who could scarcely string words together in a sentence, but who was a master of technology—and Reilly’s bed buddy—was in his lair watching the Barbie show.
“Remember our motto,” I said, patting my thigh and speaking softly so only she could hear. “More to love.”
She blinked heavily and patted down her green color-washed hair. “Right. More to love, and Neil does love this,” she said, doing a subtle chair shimmy. I swallowed my laugh. Reilly was a JLO wannabe—only not Latina,
more full-figured, and monolingual.
But otherwise, hey, they were like twins.
I noticed Sadie, fellow detective and my own personal nemesis, fidgeting uncomfortably at the table, client intake form clasped in a brown folder in front of her. Her spiky, red-tipped blond hair seemed to inch up every time one of the two women at the table moved the slightest muscle.
I’d recently surmised that Sadie and Manny had an on-again/off-again thing that defied explanation. Sadie wasn’t the lovable type. Neither was Manny, for that matter. He was tall and dark; she was petite and fair. He was bitter coffee and clipped sentences; she was Spicy Hot V8 with attitude and too much lime. He was
intense and brooding, and she was, well, a shrew. What kept bringing them back together was a mystery to me, but some things were just better left unsolved.
From my vantage point at Reilly’s desk, I took a closer gander at the two women at the table. They seemed familiar somehow. I searched the recesses of my brain for answers. Were they in a breast-enhancement ad? Poster girls for plastic surgery? As much as I wanted to pull the information out of my mind, I couldn’t quite manage it.
Manny walked to the table, his barely perceptible limp altering his gait just enough to make a girl curious about what had caused it. I was plenty curious, but I had no idea. War wound from his time on the police force was my guess. His gaze caught mine. “Dolores.”
He flicked his cleft chin toward the table and I threw up my hand in an all-encompassing greeting. “Hello.”
It was my afternoon to man the agency so the other detectives—Manny, Sadie, and Neil—could be in the field. We rotated, though with my junior detective status, the ink on my California private investigator’s license barely dry, I usually pulled bonus shifts for more pay. My docket wasn’t as full as any of the three senior associates, though after my recent successes in solving several local crimes I was hoping
would change. I’d worked my behind off. Time to reap the benefits.
The exotic gazelle girl whispered into Manny’s ear. His arms were crossed over his chest and his biceps bulged under his black T-shirt. There was something peculiar about the way he was acting. He was almost, er, pleasantly attentive. Very unlike him. He subscribed to the same school of communication Neil Lashby did: cut to the chase.
“Dolores,” he barked.
I jumped. Busted for staring. Damn, not a good P.I. move. “Yes?”
He crooked a finger.
Apparently his pleasant attentiveness didn’t extend to me. His words hadn’t sounded like a friendly “come here.” I ran through all the things Manny could have a beef with me about. My outfit topped the list. October usually had decent weather, but Sacramento was in the midst of an Indian summer and the air was heavy with uncommon humidity. I’d caught a glimpse of my reflection in the glass as I’d entered the agency: my salmon-colored blouse clung to me like plastic wrap. In the right situation—say in the privacy of Jack Callaghan’s bedroom—this could be a good thing. At work? Not so much.
But I held my chin high and walked over to Manny and the gazelle. “Yes?”
” My astonishment at the order pinballed through my mind and I slipped out of my dominant English and into my native Spanish.
,” he added as an afterthought. Speaking Spanish and being detectives were probably the only two things Manny and I had in common. He was my mentor and damn good at his job. I worked hard to impress him and still stay true to myself—not always easy, since I was Dolores Cruz to him (and to
), but Lola Cruz to my friends. In my mind, I was a combination, but I didn’t think anyone really knew both sides of me.
Except maybe Jack Callaghan. He’d gotten a few glimpses of both Dolores and Lola. And he seemed to like them both.
“It’s about our new case,” he said. “Turn around.”
I heard the faint
of the surveillance camera and I knew my Neanderthal coworker wasn’t missing a single beat from the lair, his personal high-tech office, just waiting to see what I’d do. A solid but basic roundhouse kick, perhaps? Or maybe I’d go airborne kicking both legs, one at a time, with a double whammy. Not a bad idea. I weighed my options, in case it came to that. Which it just might.
In the end, I did neither. If it was for a case, I could only assume Manny had a reason for wanting to check out my backside. I just wasn’t convinced it was a
reason. My black capris were probably just as clingy as my blouse, but I couldn’t help that and I was not going to let sticky skin stop me from doing my job. Sucking in a bolstering breath and straightening my spine, I turned around in a slow circle, hands on hips. I turned to Manny and the gazelle again and waited. She was so familiar, but where did I know her from?
Her back was as straight as a two-by-four. She had one arm across her chest, the other bent at the elbow, her fingers tapping her puckered lips. “Good bones. Nice shape. Could be taller, but I guess she’ll do,” she finally said, dropping both arms to her sides.
What was I, a horse?
“Don’t you want to check my teeth?” I asked as Sadie snickered and the Stepford women at the table shifted positions and eyeballed me.
The gazelle didn’t crack a smile, and neither did Manny. Instead, he gestured with his hand. “Dolores Cruz, meet our new client, Victoria Wolfe.”
I grudgingly held out my hand. Victoria shook it with a firm but bony grip. “Pleasure,” she said just as a man materialized from inside Manny’s office.